So back in April, Simon Inoki, brother of Antonio, announced that the Inoki Genome Federation was branching out with a separate brand that would run smaller venues than the larger scale IGF shows, and more often at that. For the first show they brought in a bunch of shoot style vets like Fujiwara, Funaki, Otsuka and Josh Barnett. I think three cards were taped and a further handful of guys like Takaiwa, Kanemoto, Murakami and Minoru Tanaka made appearances. I was on board. Then last week it got shitcanned. Go figure. I don't know if it's gone for good or there's some inter-Inoki squabbling going on that might be hastily resolved or whatever, but either way Next Exciting Wrestling is no more...for the time being. I've started picking through the three shows we have available.
Yoshiaki Fujiwara v Shinya Aoki (NEW, 4/5/17)
Man, Fujiwara is the most timeless of the timeless. He looks almost no different now than he did fifteen years go and the only difference between then and fifteen years before that is the kneepads (he always looked like an elderly gent, even in the earliest footage we have of him). He's a little slower than he once was given that he's two years shy of his seventieth(!!!) birthday, but he can still work joints and take it to the mat with the best of them. Aoki is a lightweight mixed martial artist who's fought everywhere from PRIDE to Strikeforce and flipped off Mizuto Hirota after breaking his arm with a kimura. He possibly has the reputation of being a wee prick. This was fairly methodical, but the devil is in the details and the details were what made it. All of the shifting for side control was measured, often with Fujiwara using his weight to his advantage. He'd use some nasty joint manipulation and, being a few steps ahead as he always is, Aoki would try to roll free only to end up where Fujiwara really wanted him. Aoki would kind of slither about as if he was going to shoot in for a takedown, so Fujiwara would draw him in close and ram him with a headbutt. And holy fuck were these some awesome little heabutts, straight to the ear leaving Aoki almost in disbelief (I mean, he broke a dude's arm and gave him the finger, so it's hard to feel too much sympathy for him). When Fujiwara managed to grab the Fujiwara armbar I thought he might actually be able to pull off the win. Then when Aoki escapes you get the sense he might not come any closer than that. By the end you're just hoping Fujiwara can survive the choke long enough for the time limit to expire. This could've been a super fun modern day Fujiwara/Takada-esque series if they'd gotten the chance.
Kazunari Murakami & Kohei Sato v Keisuke Okuda & Akira Jo (NEW, 7/7/17)
This is that one Murakami match that pops up every year and makes me want to watch every single thing he's ever done. I never actually do it of course, but there are few things in wrestling I enjoy more than watching Murakami roll into town and wreak havoc. He's even gone a step further this year by rocking up wearing what appears to be a snake skin suit. He looks like a hitman who requests payment in "favours." Of the sexual variety? Maybe a wee bit too conventional for the likes of he. I've never seen Jo or Okuda before but the pre-match highlight package leads me to believe they will not spend much of this match on the offensive. This was about 95% strikes and sneers and it was totally awesome. Jo and Okuda take a real pasting but they just keep on coming. A few times they'll cause trouble, but for the most part Murakami and Sato obliterate them. Murakami was amazing in this; his facial expressions and mugging is some of the best ever and he was glaring and snarling like a psychopath. Akira Jo doesn't have the greatest strikes in the world, which isn't normally conducive to having good strike exchanges (especially given that most strike exchanges are crummy to begin with, simply by way of their existence), but it actually became a positive in this instance as it highlighted the sheer gulf in striking power. He'd throw a few flimsy forearms and slaps then he'd get murdered with a Murakami uppercut or Sato kneelift. Basically Murakami and Sato were bastards and Jo and Okuda had no means of out-bastarding them, no matter how hard they tried. Towards the end Murakami was just planting them with judo throws and Sato told the crowd to quieten down for a sec so they could hear the thunk off a headbutt. When Murakami rids himself of the jacket and shirt you know it's go-home time. I loved this and I really should watch every single thing Murakami's ever done.
RIP, Next Extreme Wrestling. We hardly knew thee.